I know you’re no stranger to hyaluronic acid (HA). After all, it’s a hero of skincare, great for all skin types that targets hydration — the thing your skin needs at any time of the day, all year round, and at all ages. When skin is hydrated, it appears plump, dewy, bouncy, and glowy, wrinkles are less visible, and the protective barrier is stronger. So, if you’re worried sick about getting wrinkles on your face, you should turn to hyaluronic acid since it plays a pivotal role in tissue regeneration, and much more. Stay tuned.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule, also known as glycosaminoglycan (GAG), naturally produced by the body, which has the role to bind water to collagen molecules, locking it into the skin, and keeping it hydrated and bouncy. Not only does HA retains moisture in the skin, but it also prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL), holding onto that elastic and firm skin. As a matter of fact, 50% of the body’s hyaluronic acid is in the skin, being the main component that gives skin structure.
You get now how important it is to replenish its levels, especially when, with age, hyaluronic acid is not as abundant.
How does hyaluronic acid work?
In skincare products, hyaluronic acid is used as a humectant, aka an agent that hydrates by attracting water molecules from the environment to the skin. You’ll see hyaluronic acid in many forms, but the most popular ones are hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, hyaluronic acid, and sodium hyaluronate, each working differently. The main distinction between them is their molecular weight, which gives skin varied benefits — yes, size matters.
Types of hyaluronic acid
By its nature, hyaluronic acid has a high molecular weight, which makes it a macromolecule. Large molecules work by forming a veil on the skin, preventing TEWL, but they can not penetrate further. For this reason, hyaluronic acid molecules are sometimes chopped up into smaller ones so that they can sink deeper into the skin.
Hyaluronic acid has a large molecule that remains on the skin’s surface, delivering an instant plump effect but with a shorter lifespan. Once applied to the skin, the high molecular weight hyaluronic acid coats the skin, preventing water evaporation and improving elasticity and firmness.
Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid is the low molecular weight version of hyaluronic acid. This means the molecule has been split into smaller fragments, meaning it can reach the deeper layers of skin, stimulating tissue repair, sustaining skin moisture content, and increasing its self-defense. Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid is great at giving long-term hydration.
Sodium hyaluronate is probably the most common form of HA used in skincare formulations. It has a lower molecular weight than the two aforementioned forms, small enough to enter the epidermis. This means sodium hyaluronate improves water levels from the inside out, giving long-lasting hydration and plumpness.
For best-in-class hydration benefits, you should use a combination of molecular weights of hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid skin benefits
Since it’s a humectant, hyaluronic acid acts as a sponge that holds water into the skin, drawing water either from the environment or from the inner layers of the skin to the surface in a lack of water in the atmosphere. Hyaluronic acid also prevents skin from losing water by trapping moisture instead of letting it evaporate into the atmosphere, the thing that makes wrinkles appear less visible, increasing firmness and elasticity.
Acts as a shield against free radical damage
We all have fatty acids in the skin that protect the lipid barrier from bothers, such as UVA/UVB rays, dust, pollution, and dirt. With age, these fatty acid levels decrease and become less able to protect the skin, so it becomes exposed to all kinds of irritants, which damage it. Here’s where a hyaluronic acid product come in handy. It was found that high molecular weight hyaluronic acid improves the protective barrier of the skin by preserving moisture in it, making skin appear more elastic and firmer.
Hyaluronic acid also holds anti-inflammatory properties that help skin heal faster, being considered one of the key players in the tissue regeneration process. Concentration also matters. Ideally, you should use products with 1% HA or higher. Ensure hyaluronic acid appears high on the ingredient list and not by the end of it. Otherwise, you won’t get as many benefits.
Keeps skin firm and smooth
Due to aging, sun exposure, and free radical damage, skin loses firmness and elasticity. By boosting hydration and stimulating repair, hyaluronic acid helps curb these issues, revealing a firmer and smoother complexion. Although it does not fully restore the skin’s elasticity, hyaluronic acid hydrates the complexion, making it appear bouncy and youthful.
Plumps fine lines and wrinkles
By restoring moisture to the skin, hyaluronic acid makes fine lines and wrinkles appear filled. Once the skin is hydrated with hyaluronic acid, it appears smooth, and fine lines become less visible. At the same time, regular use of HA prevents new lines from forming prematurely. For instance, one study found that a moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid significantly decreased wrinkles by 10 to 20%, while skin tightness was found to rise by 13 to 30% after only three months.
How to use hyaluronic acid
One of the very best perks of hyaluronic acid for skincare is its versatility, being an ingredient that can be used in a wide array of products, by any skin type and can be mixed with most actives.
Topical hyaluronic acid
If you aim to keep your skin hydrated using hyaluronic acid, then creams and serums are the best for you. Hyaluronic acid serums allow actives to penetrate the skin, delivering instant and long-lasting hydration. On the other hand, a moisturizer infused with hyaluronic acid works better at trapping hydration in the skin, hindering water evaporation.
You can also use injection with hyaluronic acid for more dramatic results. After all, you shouldn’t expect a facelift from a serum. In case of deeper wrinkles and saggy skin, your best bet might be an in-office hyaluronic acid dermal filler. It can be injected into your face to fill fine lines and wrinkles with an amazingly fast and dramatic result.
Are there any side effects?
Hyaluronic acid is generally safe, but in rare cases, a few side effects might occur. This depends on the application method. While topical use doesn’t cause adverse reactions, a dermal HA filler is more likely to do so, but not necessarily because of the hyaluronic acid itself. Anyway, every time you use a new product on your skin, do a test patch in a small area to determine any possible sensitivities.
Hyaluronic acid is an effective humectant agent famous for its ability to hydrate, help skin retain water, keeping tissues well lubricated and moist. It definitely is not a fad ingredient but a staple for your skincare routine, no matter your skin type or concern.
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- Nobile V, Buonocore D, Michelotti A, Marzatico F. Anti-aging and filling efficacy of six types hyaluronic acid-based dermo-cosmetic treatment: a double-blind, randomized clinical trial of efficacy and safety. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2014;13(4):277-287. doi:10.1111/jocd.12120.
- Litwiniuk M, Krejner A, Speyrer MS, Gauto AR, Grzela T. Hyaluronic Acid in Inflammation and Tissue Regeneration. Wounds. 2016 Mar;28(3):78-88.
- Poetschke J, Schwaiger H, Steckmeier S, Ruzicka T, Gauglitz GG. Anti-wrinkle creams with hyaluronic acid: how effective are they?. MMW Fortschr Med. 2016 May 25;158 Suppl 4:1-6. German. doi: 10.1007/s15006-016-8302-1.